Thomas Broderick is a freelance writer living in Northern California. He is a member of SFWA and the author of 19 published short stories.
In All Her Volumes Vast
The hunters, separated by 50,000 years in time and light, awoke early. For one, that meant rising before the sun in his tribe’s ancestral cave that overlooked the savannah. For the other, that meant rising to the alarm in his hibernation unit, for the stars were legion and static in the outer rim.
The two men knew hardship. As children, they had lost their fathers to the hunt. One stalked beast on the plain, the other ore in the nebula.
The men had followed in their fathers’ footsteps, for that was the way of things. There was no other. The caveman collected his weapons: sharp metal that had fallen from the sky. Long-dead elders had scratched the story onto the cave’s walls. The metal would always keep its edge no matter how many generations wielded it.
The caveman said goodbye to his son.
The spaceman inspected his shuttle: a patchwork of secondhand electronic components. Out in the nebula, nothing was new, and repairs were possible only with scrap. The grappling hook and particle cannon were in working order, but barely. Thankfully, the cockpit indicator board lit green.
The spaceman said goodbye to his son.
The hunters clashed spears and descended into the hunting grounds. The hunters sounded off before leaving their mothership in tight formation.
The hunting grounds were fertile. A new herd of animals was resting near the watering hole. A cluster of small asteroids was orbiting an artificial gravity well. The prey looked placid enough. Neither man fell into a false security. That meant death. They had seen it before—trusted friends who did not make it, their bodies returned to the dirt or void.
The hunters spread out from one another. There was strength in numbers, yes, but too close and one man’s mistake could cost everyone their lives. The tribes silently studied their prey.
One man charged while the other charged his weapon.
What happened next, they did not see coming. The impacts, sudden and mortal, came from the left. The air escaping their lungs, the two men turned their dying bodies towards the Sun.
At once it looked so close and yet so far away.
Not long after, the others returned home. The son did not need to ask what had happened to his father. The hunters presented him with his inheritance: a few shards of precious metal.
That night, surrounded by starlight, the hunters mourned their loss. For the first time, the son joined them, but not for long. Tomorrow was another day of hunting, and the son would need to learn the way.
As it always was. As it always would be.